Cheap, Fast or Perfect: Pick Two

Ever wonder why your projects keep falling flat? You've used the latest and greatest tips, you're on every social network, you're website 'pops' like no other but still, things never quite turn out the way you want them? There is one simple concept that I see people overlooking time and time again.

When developing a marketing campaign, building a website, making an app, or doing just about anything, you simply can’t have your cake and eat it too. This concept has been bandied about for a long time, but it is something that cannot be overstated. I am confronted weekly with attitudes from people that think they are somehow the exception to this rule. But more often than that, I run into businesses that don’t know that this paradigm even exists.

For those that aren’t familiar with this concept, it is very simple. There are three attributes that any project has to balance: budget, timeline and scope. In other words, you must decide how much you are spending, how fast you need it and how complex it is. Each of these attributes are connected to each other like a slider. The more complex your project is, the more it will cost or the longer it will take. In another light, the faster you need your project completed, the more it will cost or the simpler you need to make it.

Imagine you are building a website for your company. Then imagine you have three corners of a triangle (cheap, fast and perfect) and you have to pick a side between any two points. You can build a tiny website yourself on something like Squarespace if you need it cheap and fast because you’re on a tight deadline and budget. This, of course, comes with many constraints like lack of flexibility and functionality. Or you can hire a stellar agency to give you their full attention if you need it fast and perfect, but that will most definitely come at a steep price. Lastly, you can hire an equally stellar agency that is smaller or only works on your site as a secondary project. This means that your project will take a lot longer but it will also greatly reduce your cost since the agency can work on other projects at the same time.

The key element to understand here is: you can’t pick the middle of the triangle. You don’t get to have cheap, fast and perfect. That is an empty space that doesn’t exist in the world. This is the magical unicorn that the tech world is always searching for. Passion projects can often come very close to this, but that is hardly a reliable way to run your business and most people probably aren’t as passionate about your business as you are.

So what happens when you have a new project and you aim for that space in the middle of the triangle? You get the worst of all worlds. You end up cutting corners to keep costs down and save time, which end up coming back to bite you down the road, which ends up increasing costs and requiring more development time. Or you realize that ‘perfect’ means something completely different than you thought it did, and you end up with a product that doesn’t serve any of your needs.

There is one key way of avoiding falling into this trap and that is to truly understand what your needs are right from the beginning. If you are truly on a tight timeline and budget, then you *have* to cut back on your scope. If, on the other hand, you set a tight timeline because you *wish* it was shorter, then you need to be prepared to spend the proper budget.

Don’t be the toddler that keeps trying to fit the circle block in the triangular hole. Identify your needs, identify your goals, then aim appropriately.